Licence to thrill – the best stunts of James Bond

Featuring car flips, speedboat racing, patriotic parachutes and crocodile jumps...

Casino Royale – Running on empty (11.38-16.05)

In this memorable chase set to David Arnold’s dramatic score, Bond (Daniel Craig) pursues terrorist bomb-maker Mollaka (Sébastien Foucan) up a huge crane, across rooftops and through a building site. Foucan is no mere actor, of course – the freerunning pioneer incorporates the acrobatic discipline into the sequence, bouncing off rooftops and surfaces at high speed while a less nimble Bond relies on his brute strength to keep up with his enemy – at one point, battering his way through a wall.

After the nonsensical, poor CGI sequences in Die Another Day – (glacier para-surfing anyone?) – Casino Royale strived to present a more realistic edge to the action beats that are at the heart of the franchise. This sequence, which took a total of six weeks to get in the can, was a perfect start.

Goldeneye – Oh, dam it! (00.45-02.29)

To infiltrate a Soviet chemical weapons facility, Bond (Pierce Brosnan) bungee jumps off a vast dam, fires a piton gun into the concrete roof of the building and hauls himself into the enemy’s top-secret base. As you do.

This 720-foot jump was filmed at the Contra Dam in Verzasca, Switzerland and performed by stuntman Wayne Michaels. Director Martin Campbell knows he's dealing with something special, shooting the scene from a dizzying aerial angle and putting nothing in the soundmix but the whistling wind. 

The stunt set a then-record for the highest bungee jump from a fixed structure, and served as the 'Bond is back' opening sequence to 1995's GoldenEye, which came six years (the longest gap in the series' history) after its predecessor Licence To Kill

The Man With The Golden Gun – A bridge too far? (86.19-87.13)

While tailing the villainous Scaramanga (Christopher Lee) and his midget henchman Nick Nack (Hervé Villechaize), Bond (Roger Moore) and his passenger, foul-mouthed Louisiana sheriff J.W Pepper (Clifton James), are forced to carry out a ridiculous corkscrew car jump. Their red 1974 AMC Hornet hatchback uses a broken bridge as a ramp to perform a 360-degree barrel roll, which sees the car travel through the air, over a narrow river, and land safely on the other side with barely a scratch.

It's an outrageous stunt, performed by Hollywood driver 'Bumps' Willard in one take and the first of its kind to be calculated using computer software. Shown in slow-motion, the sequence is accompanied by the noise of a slide whistle. The result? One of the greatest car jumps of all time marred by a silly sound effect.

The Spy Who Loved Me – Downhill from here... (05.59-08.05)

Chased on skis by murderous Russian agents – and accompanied by a funky disco soundtrack – Bond (Moore, again) jumps off a cliff and plummets to what looks like certain death, but escapes by opening a Union Jack-emblazoned parachute. As the 'chute is deployed, the James Bond theme tune kicks in and 007 proves that nobody does it better.

Perhaps the best pre-titles sequence of all the 007 films, the jump was performed by stuntman Rick Sylvester. Before he skied towards the precipice, second unit director John Glen gave Sylvester one piece of advice: ‘Don’t forget, Rick – you are James Bond.’

After he had completed the danger-fraught stunt, Sylvester, whose stomach had turned to jelly, rushed to the edge of the mountain, pulled his trousers down and... you can imagine the rest.

A View To A Kill – M'aidez for Mayday (17.51-19.28)

Grace Jones’ villain Mayday flees from Bond, played by a somewhat wrinkly Roger Moore (donning the tux at age 58), by leaping off the top of the Eiffel Tower. 

She makes her escape by parachuting over the Seine, with Bond following in a commandeered taxi, causing chaos on the streets of Paris. Mayday lands on a river cruise boat and 007 follows suit, leaping off a bridge, falling through the roof canopy and ending up in a wedding cake. Yet he is left picking up the pieces while Mayday gets away in a speedboat. 

After the tourist spot stunt was undertaken by BJ Worth, rumours abound that two of the crew went and made an unauthorised jump, as they were apparently so disappointed that they didn't actually get to leap off the Eiffel Tower. And it cost them their jobs. Whoops.

Live And Let Die – Get snappy (80.55-85.03)

In Live and Let Die, Bond becomes stranded on a tiny island which is surrounded by crocodiles. To escape the snappy reptiles, he uses three of the crocs as stepping stones, running over them to get to safety.

The most amusing stunt in the Bond series (if you ignore the animal cruelty), it was also paid homage to in Skyfall’s Komodo dragon sequence – Live and Let Die being Daniel Craig’s favourite Bond flick.

The crocodile jump took five takes (you can find the outtakes online) and was performed by Ross Kananga, owner of the crocodile farm that was used in the movie. During one take, a croc snapped at Kananga’s heel and tore his trousers. Kananga also wore crocodile shoes when he did the stunt – a gag suggested by Bond actor Roger Moore. The filmmakers liked Kananga so much they borrowed his surname for Yaphet Kotto's drug-running baddie.

The World Is Not Enough – It's not Oxford vs Cambridge... (08.01 – 13.04)

Using the London skyline as a spectacular backdrop, this is part of the film's pre-titles sequence – the longest in the franchise to date at around 14 minutes – and sees Pierce Brosnan's agent chasing an assassin known as the Cigar Girl down the Thames in a gadget-laden jet boat from Q Branch. Property is destroyed, traffic wardens are soaked and Bond’s boat does a somersault, travels underwater and narrowly avoids being hit by a red bus when 007 decides to drive it down a road. The action culminates with the spy dangling from beneath a hot air balloon floating over the Millennium Dome.

The blockbuster chase took seven weeks to film and wasn't first intended to be in the pre-credits reel – it was inserted after audiences in test showings said that the original opening scene, which included Bond jumping from a window in Bilbao, wasn’t exciting enough.

Licence To Kill – You're fired! (119.00-120.44)

Hell-bent on revenge, a brutal Bond (Timothy Dalton) is on a rogue mission to destroy the organisation of sadistic drug baron Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi).

In the climax of this 1989 entry – easily the most violent in the 007 franchise – the MI6 man sets out to thwart Sanchez’s plans to transport four articulated tankers full of a mixture of cocaine and petrol. Yet having hijacked one of the tankers and rammed another off the road, Bond is confronted by Sanchez’s goons, who are armed with a rocket launcher. To dodge an oncoming missile he uses a (handy) ramp to tilt the truck on its side and motor down the road on two wheels. The producers aren't content to end the in-camera stunt there, though, having the truck continue on his wobbly path and destroying an enemy jeep. Handy.

Diamonds Are Forever – What happens in Vegas...  (66.57-68.00)

At the wheel of a Ford Mustang, Bond (played here by Sean Connery) is outrunning cops through the streets of downtown Las Vegas. To make his escape, he drives through a narrow alleyway (ignoring a 'Dead End' sign) by tilting the car on two wheels.

Impressive driving, certainly, but the scene features a major continuity mistake. When Bond enters the alley, he is driving the car on its two right wheels, but when the Mustang emerges at the other end, it is wheely-ing on the opposite side. How so? Because the stunt was shot in two different locations – Universal Studios and Vegas – with different drivers and crews, and the gaffe was not discovered until much later.

To correct the mishap, a new shot was inserted into the sequence, where Bond and passenger Tiffany Case (Jill St. John) shift their weight, tilting the car in the other direction before it exits the alley. Clever, eh?

Tomorrow Never Dies – Bike vs Chopper (80.30-82.08)

Handcuffed together after escaping from the headquarters of mad media mogul Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce), 007 (Brosnan) and Chinese agent Wai Lin (Michelle Yeoh) steal a motorbike and rip through the streets of Saigon. Naturally, this being a Bond flick, they're shadowed by gun-toting henchmen, and soon they take to the rooftops in their getaway bid, only to be faced with a perilous jump over the whirring rotor blades of a bad guy's helicopter.

Second unit director Vic Armstrong described this action scene as 'extremely dangerous', which is probably putting it mildly. The bike was driven by motorcycle expert Jean-Pierre Goy, and his fall (through the roof of a building) was cushioned by a 20-foot-high pile of cardboard boxes. Ironically, Goy said he never drives a motorbike on public roads, because he thinks they are unsafe…